Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of worker fatalities, and distracted driving increases the risk of such accidents. Texting is the distraction of all distractions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the risk of a crash for a driver who is texting is more than 23 times higher than an undistracted driver. President Obama has signed an executive order banning texting by federal employees while driving government vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued regulatory guidance prohibiting commercial vehicle drivers from texting. Now OSHA has entered the fight against texting while driving. (Here and here.)
Once a hot employment law issue, drug testing has been cool for quite some time. Most courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled that there’s nothing wrong with testing for unlawful drugs, particularly in the private sector. So, for two decades, an increasing number of employers do drug testing routinely. The types of drug testing most commonly done are pre-employment, for cause or reasonable suspicion (for example, when an employee is involved in an accident at work, seems to be under the influence of something, etc.), and random.
On the same day that there was riveting, excruciating testimony at the hearing in Texas on the Fort Hood massacre, a miracle was occurring in Chile. On November 4, 2009, at the safest military facility in the U.S., an army psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage, killing 13 and wounding 30. His trial is underway, and eye witnesses are giving wrenching accounts of what happened at his hands. On August 5, 2010, a mine in San Jose, Chile, collapsed, trapping 33 miners. Based on other mining disasters, a lot of people expressed hope, but few expected all — all — of the miners to be rescued.
I did a post on May 27, 2010, about increasing suicides in the workplace. The workplace in question was located in China. The conditions under which employees worked resembled a prison more than a workplace. Those conditions were blamed for the suicide spike. Now we’re told that returning American soldiers to Fort Hood in Texas are committing suicide at an alarming rate. (Here and here.) The conditions under which these soldiers have worked in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past several years make the Chinese situation pale by comparison.
That’s an exaggeration. However, a recent incident involving a Rutgers University student demonstrates where social media and the Internet are taking us. College pranks at the beginning of the school year are common, particularly when freshmen are involved. These pranks have sometimes gone overboard, but with the Internet, a prank or an act of revenge can ravage the target.
This week’s tip involved an employer’s right to control the attire worn by employees. One other point that needs to be made involves dress and religion. That necessarily raises the matter of providing a reasonable accommodation to an employee to dress differently from other employees because of religious beliefs. (See a post I did last week on a different aspect of religious accommodation.)
Only two weeks into the National Football League season, and pro football injuries are occurring at an unusually fast rate. Can you imagine what would happen if these injuries were happening at a manufacturing plant, a construction site, or a chemical company? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be investigating full throttle and issuing citations like hotcakes.
When I learned of a trainer being attacked by a lion at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, I was reminded of the Animal Employment Protection Act (AEPA). I’m pretty sure the trainer was an employee. I’m not sure about the lion. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. It’s been awhile since I’ve shown the AEPA mini-training video, so here goes.
Last week, I had a post about the restaurant server who filed a claim with the Tennessee Occupational Safety Health Administration, contending that Tennessee’s law allowing registered gun owners to bring their guns into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol violated TOSHA. Why? Allowing guns to be brought into places that serve alcohol creates a dangerous and unsafe workplace for employees who work in the restaurants and bars because of the threat of violence.
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited SeaWorld of Florida for various safety violations, including one classified as willful, in connection with the death of an animal trainer. A six-ton killer whale grabbed the trainer and pulled her under water. Video footage shows the whale repeatedly striking and thrashing the trainer, pulling the trainer under water as she attempted to escape. An autopsy said the trainer had died of drowning and traumatic injuries.
Like a few other states, Tennessee has a law on the books that permits registered gun owners to bring their guns into establishments serving alcohol. A server in a Nashville restaurant has filed an anonymous complaint with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration claiming that mixing guns with alcohol creates an unsafe work environment under TOSHA.
People increasingly listen to songs on iPods, text or email, talk on their cell phones, and watch high-definition television — while they’re working out at the gym, standing in a grocery store line, and siting at stop lights. The smallest amount of downtime is filled with digital input. These micro-moments of down time have even caused the creation of video games that can be played in just a few minutes.
You are undoubtedly aware of the tragic workplace violence in Manchester, Connecticut. (Click here, here and here for recent recaps.) A few new facts have emerged but shed little light on this deadly event. As fellow blogger Daniel Schwartz, a lawyer in Connecticut, wrote yesterday, the “awful truth” is that, no matter how right employers do things, there is no absolute way to prevent workplace violence once an employee has crossed the line and decided to kill co-workers. I came to a similar conclusion when I wrote several posts on the Fort Hood violence.
Anyone up for a job with the above warning attached? There are lots, of course, in the National Football League. Although the NFL has always downplayed the harm caused by head injuries, it’s finally putting out notices and brochures that comport with overwhelming medical and scientific evidence. Concussions, particularly multiple (two or more) concussions, cause permanent brain damage. The league continues, however, to take a hard line on disability claims of former players who now have dementia and related-conditions.
In McDonald v. City of Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms applies to state and local governments just as it does to the federal government. This ruling is hardly surprising in light of the Court’s decision two years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Court found that the District of Columbia’s absolute ban on the possession of handguns (similar to what Chicago’s ordinance did) violated the Second Amendment.
Safety training in the workplace is important. It can be, however, a little boring, so employees don’t pay enough attention. By mixing together a few stick people, a little humor and music by the Rolling Stones, a memorable safety training program can be created. So, the picture to the left should say something like, “Humor me, so I’ll remember to be safe.”
As widely reported, at least 25 miners have died in a West Virginia mine explosion. The Mine Safety and Health Administraton (similar to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, except it has jurdisdiction over mining safety and accidents) has already started an investigation of this tragedy. Most employers are regulated by OSHA when it comes to matters of safety and health.
It’s no exaggeration to say that workplace violence is any employer’s worst nightmare, whether or not there’s resulting litigation. Given today’s economy, the risk of the nightmare has increased.
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms for personal use, striking down a District of Columbia ban on handguns in District of Columbia v. Heller. The Court didn’t say whether the Second Amendment generally applies to state and local gun control laws. The Court’s ruling also didn’t directly affect employer policies banning guns from the workplace.
The Olympics provide lessons for all facets of life. Look closely, and you’ll find numerous Olympic lessons that can be applied to the workplace.